Friday, 28 December 2012

Korobona (America) - Wawalag Sisters (Australia)

Korobona (core-oh-BONE-ah) is a water goddess of central and south America whose story bears some similarity to that of the Wawalag Sisters of Australia. Korobona is one of the two sisters who walked by a lake and decided to bathe in the waters. While doing so, she became entranced by a piece of wood standing upright in the lake. She grasped the wood, and this broke the spell of enchantment that held a powerful water spirit entranced and captive below. He emerged and took her to his home at the bottom of the lake.

As in most myths, the child of this union created much strife in the family, and the symbols of the story include  the potency and taboos relating to water and menstrual blood. The story of mother and son is central to the entire creation legion of the Carib, Arawak, and Warau  people of Central and South America. Korobona's son, who was half serpent, became a sacrificed saviour and was later resurrected to become the first of the Carib Indians and a mighty warrior.

The contemplation of this goddess is if I pause, look deeply, and resist the urge to judge, I can feel the pain of another's path.

From Goddesses for Every Day by Julie Loar.

This was the reading I was doing in my daily practise this morning and I thought that I would research it further and blog here of my findings as I had never heard of this goddess before.

You can call on Korobona to help you through the death of a loved one.

Photo Source Book Guyana Legends: Folk Tales of the Indigenous Amerindians 
By Odeen Ishmael
Sketch of a Carib Warrior 17th Century Depiction 

In the book Society and Nature - A Sociological Inquiry By Hans Kelsen states the following:

The country in which the ancestors of the Waraus lived was abundantly supplied with game, but water was scarce. The Great Spirit, in reply to their supplications, created the Essequibo and other streams. Moreover, he formed for the Waraus, his dear though erring children, a small lake of delicious water, charging them "only to drink of it, but not to bathe therein, or evil would ensue." This was the test of obedience, and all the men religiously observed it. Near that pleasant spot there dwelt a family of note among the Waraus, consisting of four brothers, named respectively, Kororoma, Kororomana, Kororomatu and Kororomatitu, with their sisters Korobona and Korobonako. The latter, two beautiful but wilful maidens, disregarded the injunction, and in an evil hour ventured into the forbidden water. In the centre there was planted a pole, which, while it remained untouched, was their safeguard. This excited their curiosity. There was a secret which they must find out. The boldest of the two at last ventured to shake it, and thereby broke the charm which had bound the spirit of the pool - and he immediately took possession of the maiden as his' lawful prize. Great was the indignation of her brothers when, after a time, their sister became a mother. But as the babe was in all respects like one of their own children, they, after long consultation, allowed it to live and grow up with them, and the mother's offence was forgiven. She could not, however, forget the pleasant pool and its mysterious inhabitant, and after a while repeated her transgression. Then came the threatened woe! The offspring of the second offence only resembled the human race in the head and upper parts, which were those of a beautiful boy - the other extremity resembling that of the variegated python or camudi of the rivers and swamps of Guiana. Though terrified at the appearance of her offspring, Korobona yet cherished it secretly in the depth of the forest where she had brought it forth. Her brothers at length discovered her secret, and transfixed the serpent-child with their arrows, leaving it for dead. But under the mother's nursing it revived, and soon grew to a formidable size. The suspicion of her brothers having been again aroused by her frequent visits to the forest, they followed her, and from a distance beheld her conversing with it, themselves remaining unseen. Fearing that they would themselves be eventually overpowered by a creature so terrible,
which, after what had happened, must naturally look upon them as foes, they resolved on an onslaught with all the power at their command. Accordingly, they made many arrows and put their other weapons in order. Their sister, asking the purpose of those preparations, received an evasive answer. On this she fled to give warning, and they pursued. Attacking the mysterious being, which sought refuge in its mother's embrace, they disabled it from a distance with showers of arrows, and to make all sure, cut it in pieces before her eyes. The unhappy Korobona carefully collected the remains into a heap, which she kept continually covered with fresh leaves and guarded with tender assiduity. After long watching, her patience was rewarded. The vegetable covering began to heave, and show signs of life. From it there slowly arose an Indian warrior of majestic and terrible appearance. His brow was of a brilliant red, he held bow and arrows in his hand, and was otherwise equipped for instant battle. That warrior was the first Carib the great father of a powerful race. He forthwith commenced the task of revenge for the wrongs suffered in his former existence. Neither his uncles, nor the whole Warau race whom they summoned, could stand before him. He drove them hither and thither like deer, took possession of such of their women as pleased him, and by them became the father of brave and terrible warriors like himself. From their presence the unhappy Waraus retired, till they reached the swampy shores of the Atlantic, forsaking those pleasant hunting grounds which they had occupied on their first descent from heaven.

Photo Source Book Guyana Legends: Folk Tales of the Indigenous Amerindians
By Odeen Ishmael
Warau children in a canoe

Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines By Patricia Monaghan states that Scholars believe that Korobona was the local name of the creator goddess Kururumany sometimes described as a god that created man, while a goddess, Kulimina created women. Alexander Bierhorst 1976 Brett Jones

This website has the tale in poetic form


Two Warau maidens sweetly sang,
 "O waters calm and clear!
We love our happy walks to take
By thy sweet margin, woodland lake,
 And find our pleasure here."

Those maidens, from the hills at first
 That guarded spot would spy.
Then, though their brothers said, "Beware,
The lake is fatal, bathe not there!"
 They dared to venture nigh.

At length fair Korobona said
 (The elder sister she),
"We, by an idle threat restrained,
From these clear waters have refrained;
 Come, sister, bathe with me.
"For what is here to do us harm?
 We maidens are alone.
Waraus, with superstitious awe,
Both old and young obey the law;
 Intruders here are none."

Straight she plunged in; for scant attire
 Our maidens wore, I trow;
Though wild beasts' teeth, with woven seeds,
And shining stones (they had no beads)
 Adorned each young Warau.

Then both, through waters fair and clear,
 Began to dive and swim;
The elder sister, void of fear,
Went first; the other followed near,
 Obeying every whim.

Before her Korobona saw
 A rod of charméd wood.
Oh that some power had stayed her hand,
And forced the maid to let it stand—
 Her safeguard while it stood!

But, wild with glee, she shook the rod,
 And broke the mighty charm.
They saw a man-like form arise,
And Korobona was his prize,
 Held by a powerful arm.
(A water spirit, 'neath the wave,
 Lay bound by mightier power;
Till some one, swimming in the lake,
Should dare that charméd rod to shake.
That was the destined hour.)

"O Warau maid!" the spirit said,
 "Thy sister there may go;"
But thee I hold. O woman fair!
Thou for a time my home must share,
 And come with me below."
Sad Korobona weeps at home
 Upon her sister's breast.
It had been comfort in her woe
That her four brothers did not know:
Now she is more distressed.
O Korobona! time has passed;
 Thou art a mother now!
And lo! thy brothers, as they stand,
(The eldest with his club in hand),
 To slay thine infant vow.
"Kill not my baby girl," she cries;
 "Slay me—the mad and wild!
But she a gentle maid will be,
And serve you all most lovingly.
 O spare the helpless child!"
Why should I dwell upon this woe,
 With greater far to tell?
Their hearts were softened by her prayer,
They gave the infant to her care:
 Though grieved, they loved her well.
Of that young child we hear no more,
 And think she must have died.
Meanwhile the spirit of the lake
Most strangely would his pastime take,
 Near that bad waterside.

A snake immense, from tree to tree
 Disporting he was seen;
Or, in his human form, would stand
Where gentle ripplets mark the sand,
 Beneath the branches green;

And sometimes as a man above,
 With serpent form below;
Until the keepers said, "What hand
Can this dread 'Wahma's' power withstand?
 His nature who can know?"

And Korobona hears the tale
 Of him who fills her mind;
Then, heeding not her sister's prayer,
Steals to the lake, and watches there,
 Resolved the truth to find.
And long she waits beneath the trees
 Filled with strange hope and fear;
Whilst he, who can her presence spy,
In serpent form eludes her eye,
 Yet still is drawing near.

His head seems like a floating seed,
 By gentle breezes blown;
The tail, like filmy scum, is near
(Thus, seeking prey, such snakes appear),
 No other part is shown.
Why, Korobona, dost thou stoop,
 That floating seed to view?
He cries, triumphant, "Thou art mine!
Unto thy fate thyself resign!"
 And captures her anew.
The hapless Korobona now
 Lives in the woods alone;
Another babe there hides from view;
For if her fault her brothers knew
 Blood only could atone.
She weepeth sore for woes in store,
 Which she can well foresee;
But that fair boy her tears now warm,
Who shares in part his father's form,
 Her greatest grief is he.

Photo Source
Warau People
She, in the day which gave him birth,
 At first essayed to fly,
But soon returned to that deep glade,
In which the helpless one was laid,
 Drawn by his feeble cry.

And by her sister, kind and true,
 Who o'er her errors wept,
That secret (soon to be revealed,
For eyes and ears cannot be sealed)
 Hath faithfully been kept.
One, passing by, the infant's cry
 Heard, and upon her came.
Then told her brethren, hunting near;
And soon she saw the four appear,
 All wild with rage and shame!

Two of them dragged their sister home;
 Two turned the child to slay,
There lying, helpless, in their view:
They with an arrow pierced him through,
 And left him where he lay.

"The child is dead," the slayers said,
 "The mother mad and wild!"
They let her go to make his grave.
But knew not that the care she gave
 Revived that hapless child.
He grew far more than other babes
 In wisdom and in size;
And, still concealed in some thick tree,
Till he his mother's form could see,
 Would shun all other eyes.

With food she daily sought the woods
 Where he was doomed to stay,
And there held converse with her child;
Till sorrow, by their talk beguiled,
 Would seem to pass away.
But Korobona quite forgot
 That some her track might know—
Her track—by those small footprints shown!
Each brother then, her secret known,
 Prepared the shaft and bow.

"Oh, why," she said, "these arrows made,
 And these stone weapons too?"
The brothers gave her short reply,
Then through the woods they saw her fly,
 And hastened to pursue.
"Oh, hide me, mother, from their eyes,"
 The wretched victim said;
"Alas! why didst thou give me birth?
For I have found no place on earth,
 And now shall soon be dead!"

The mother, clinging to her son,
 Then screened him from his foes,
And left small space at which to aim,
Yet to its mark each arrow came
 From their unerring bows.

They cut him into pieces small,
 She cursed their cruelty:
"Vile slayers of the innocent!
The woes you fear will now be sent—
 And come through you, not me!
"See here your Korobona lie!
 This spot shall be her tomb,
Where this poor blood o'erspreads the ground.
Think on it when your woes abound,
 And Waraus meet their doom!"
Of her who watched her outcast dead
 (In mournful "Bible word"),
And "suffered neither bird nor beast"
Upon the loved remains to feast,
 My Warau never heard.

He never heard! yet in his tale
 We seemed the like to bear,
How vultures and wild beasts could see
A mother in her misery,
 And none would venture near;

While food her loving sister brought;
 She, that the heap might bloom.
Laid bright green leaves and flow'rets red
Upon the body of her dead,
 Which had no other tomb.

There, sweet and fragrant, still was found
 That spot, by blood defiled.
A mighty wonder happened then,
For that great change which waits all men
 Touched not the serpent child.
At length that heap, with flowers bedecked,
 Began with life to heave:
She seemed these words to hear, "Thy son
Shall now avenge his murder done:
 O mother, cease to grieve!"

And first a head and shoulders rose,
 Slow growing from that mound:
She saw a mighty form appear,
Well armed, to fill all foes with fear,
 With limbs complete and sound.

With weighty club the warrior stood,
 With bow and arrows keen;
White down adorned his short black hair,
His skin like copper shone, more fair
 Than with Waraus had been.

And with vermilion were besmeared,
 Like blood, his cheeks and brow.
Thus the first CARIB stern arose,
A warrior strong to smite his foes,
 Dread sight to each Warau!
The brethren four their warriors called,
 Appalled that sight to see;
But few to face his club would dare,
All those who did he slaughtered there,
 And forced the rest to flee.
No Warau could his strength withstand;
 Their arrows turned away.
Their warriors fled to save their lives,
While he their daughters took for wives.
 And all their goods for prey.

And as his children still increased,
 They took the Warau's place.
Invincible, from Wahma sprung!
Though still (by mother) they belong
 To our despiséd race."
And now my tale is done at last;
 My people's fate you know,
Who from the heavens, in days long past,
 Came down to earth below,
And since to swamps were driven, where now
You may behold the poor Warau!"

Photo Source Book Legends and Myths of the Aboriginal Indian of British Guiana
By William Henry Brett
Legends of the Arawaks
Mentioned in the beginning was the similarity to that of the Wawalag Sisters of Australia.

1988 - East Arnhem Land - Where the Myth Began - Yulunggul & the Wawalag Sisters from  website

The area known as Arnhem Land is culturally rich in its mythology. A reserve (now mostly under Aboriginal control) spans an area of 37,167 square miles and has two main culture divisions - the east and the west. Each has a number of distinct social groups whose members 'possess' myths from the creative era of the dreaming. Many of these are acted out in religious ritual or in open camp ceremonies.

In eastern Arnhem Land every Aboriginal person is a member of one dialet (Mada) group and clan (Mala) according to decent from a father. Each Mada-Mala combination belongs to one of two divisions or 'Moieties' called 'Dua' and 'Yiridja'. These divisions apply not just to people, but to everything in the known universe. The recognition of them forms a basic part of Aboriginal life. 

Photo Source
The Holey Dollar & The Dump
Wawalag Sisters
Lettering: Quarter Oz· The Dump· 999 Silver
· 1988 ·
The characters depicted on the reverse of the 1988 Holey Dollar and Dump are drawn from a story which is one of the most significant in eastern Arnham Land. It is one associated with fertility and the increase of the natural species, the proper sequence of seasons and all phenomena necessary for people's well-being. It is the story of the Wawalag (or Wagilag) Sisters. Some of the meaning of the story is secret/sacred, but what follows may be shared by all of us. There are various versions and some complex interpretations, this is one:
Long ago, in the early days of the dreaming, two sisters left their home at Ngiligidji to embark on a long journey to the north. The elder sister, Boaliri, took her infant son along with her. Her younger sister, Garangal, was due to bear a child along the way. The sisters were members of the Wawalag group that belonged to the dua moiety. The women carried stone spears and hunted many animals along the way - goanna, possum, bandicoot and kangaroo. They carried these in their big 'dilly bags' and collected yams to supplement their supplies. 

One day Garangal said to her sister, ' We must stop here, for the baby will soon be born'. Sure enough, she gave birth to a male child. When her strength returned, she gathered up the infant and continued with her sister until they reached Muruwul waterhole and they decided to stay and cook their food. They did not know that the land around the waterhole was taboo, because its waters were the home of Yulunggul, the great rock python who was a 'dua' headman.

Much to the sisters' surprise, as each animal was placed on the fire, it came back to life and jumped into the waterhole. This was their way of warning the sisters of the danger that faced them. The action of the animals disturbed Yulunggul, who started to get angry. The sisters, however, did not know they had done wrong and prepared to camp, gathering bark from a stringybark tree by the waterhole to make a shelter.

Yulunggul smelled the scent of the women and became incensed. He blew a mouthful of water into the air, forming great black thunder clouds. Lightning crashed and rain came pelting down. The sisters, frightened by the sudden storm, retreated into the hut with their children. In the stormy darkness, Yulunggul uncoiled himself from the depths of the waterhole and approached the hut, his eyes protruding like great lights, searching them out. Terrified, the sisters took turns in performing a series of dances, trying to stop him. But they could not keep him at bay for very long with their songs and dancing and at last they both fell asleep exhausted. Slowly, Tulunggul coiled his huge body around the hut, pushed his head through the doorway and swallowed them all, the children and their mothers - and according to some versions of the story, their dogs.

Next morning, Yulunggul reared up on his tail and proudly surveyed the flooded countryside around him. Other 'dua' moiety snakes stood up too, and began to talk to each other in voices like thunder. Eventually the conversation got around to food and Yulunggul was forced to admit that he had swallowed the sisters. This was a calamity because, like the sisters, he was of the 'dua' moiety and so had done wrong by eating them.

As soon as he had confessed to swallowing the Wawalag, he fell to the ground, spewing out the sisters alive, but retaining the children in his stomach, because they were of the opposite moiety division, 'yiridja'. At this time, the northern monsoonal season began in earnest, bringing relief from the long dry period, fertilising the earth so that all the natural species could grow and increase and provide food for human beings.

On hearing the thunderous noise, some of the Wawalag men hurried to the scene. When they saw a rainbow within the waterhole, they knew that Yulunggul must be in there beneath the surface. They made a symbol of the great python - a long, sinuous dijeridu, and lay down to sleep. As they slept, the sisters came to them in their dreams and, guided by their messages, the men re-enacted the songs and dances the sisters had performed to ward off the snake. These became the rituals that are carried out each year to encourage fertility and the natural passing of the seasons.

Photo Source

Carved and painted wooden images of three of the great figures of aboriginal myth below. The figure on the left is Laindjung, father of Banaidja and one of the great ancestral beings. His face is white with the foam of the sea from which he emerged. It was made by Langarang of the jiridja miety at Yirrkalla.

On the right are the Wawalag sisters. The smaller, younger sister wears the crossed string bindings or breast girdle to make the breasts strong. These superb figures were executed by the artist Mauwalan, at Yirrkalla. Images like this are sometimes used as rangga emblems and revealed at performances of ceremonial acts associated with the myths. Australian Institute of Anatomy, Canberra.

Photo Source

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